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As past targets fall short, the Delhi government encourages a solar power strategy

Despite substantial subsidies and other incentives provided by the Delhi government, solar power installations at homes have failed to pique the interest of home owners, with the city only managing to add 220 megawatts (MW) of power through this medium, less than one-tenth of the target of generating 2,762MW by the end of this year.

Last February, the solar power generated by rooftop installations totaled 184MW. With the heat coming early this year, discoms anticipate that Delhi's peak power consumption would exceed 8,000MW for the first time this summer, putting a significant strain on the city's existing power infrastructure.

Discoms stated there is ample awareness about solar rooftops, but they blamed Covid-19 for the installation lag.

"In Delhi, the pandemic has had an impact on rooftop installations." Many group housing societies have been hesitant to allow solar merchants into their societies or locations over the last two years. "With infections fading, interest is returning," said a discom official who did not want to be identified.

Experts, on the other hand, attribute the public's lack of interest to the lengthy installation and commissioning process for solar rooftops.

Obtaining a NOC (no-objection certificate) from the discom and then filing an online application and the associated paperwork has proven to be labor-intensive and time-consuming. Delhi, which is urbanized and has a high income, was only able to install only 20% of the subsidised solar rooftop panels assigned to it, indicating that even subsidies are not being used. "The initial cost of installation continues to be a barrier for people," said Binit Das, deputy program manager, renewable energy, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

In addition to lower costs and rebates for excess electricity generated, the Delhi government gives discounts of up to 20% for putting solar panels on rooftops of homes and businesses. According to discoms, Delhi already gives a better rate for surplus solar power — most states in the country have capped it at 2 per unit, while Delhi offers an average power procurement cost for surplus energy of 5 per unit.

In June 2015, the National Solar Mission established a target of 2,762MW of solar electricity by 2022.

With the scheme failing to attract enough users, the Delhi government's new solar policy, introduced by Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia during his Budget speech last month, is expected to include a variety of additional incentives and modifications. The Delhi administration has set a goal of 2,500MW of solar capacity in the next five years under it.

"This is estimated to generate 10% of Delhi's yearly energy consumption," Sisodia said during his Budget speech last month, adding that the solar program will also create 40,000 new opportunities for construction workers, electricians, technicians, and engineers.

According to a government official, the new solar strategy intends to increase the number of solar panels on Delhi roofs while also creating more jobs. "Lessons learned in recent years will be included into the new solar policy." "Over the last couple of years, Delhi has made a significant push toward electric vehicles and renewable energy," said a government official who did not want to be identified.

According to BSES officials, the discom, which serves regions like as Saket, Vasant Kunj, Dwarka, Chattarpur, Sainik Farms, Karkardooma, Mayur Vihar, Patparganj, and Rohini, has seen over 4,000 solar rooftop installations with a combined load of more than 125MW.

"Our Solar City concept has gotten positive feedback... The strategy benefits both consumers and the discom. The solar outreach program also educates people about the benefits of solar energy while assuring that the systems being built meet high quality standards. It also makes several financing alternatives available to clients," a BSES representative explained.

One of the early success stories of the solar outreach was in Dwarka, where the discoms began installing solar panels in 2018 as part of a "Solarise Dwarka" project.

According to KR Bhimrao, a resident of Shiv Bhole CGHS in Dwarka Sector 2, the society has a solar capacity of more than 100KW, which results in annual savings of more than 100,000 units across 60 families. "The savings are significant during the summer." "After observing a big reduction in our expenses, nearby societies began installing solar panels," he said.

Over the previous three years, the Kalka CGHS community in nearby Sector 6 has also seen lower electricity prices. Residents claim that, with a combined installed capacity of more than 50KW, they produce excess electricity each year, resulting in discoms paying money to society at the end of the year.

"We receive 5... for each surplus unit generated." So not only are the electricity bills lower, but extra output provides additional benefits at the end of each fiscal year if it is left over," explained Sujeet, a society resident.

Each kilowatt (KW) of solar roofs may provide approximately 100-120 units of power per month, with experts estimating that the installation cost is normally recovered within 3.5 to 4 years. Solar panels necessary to generate one KW of power will cost between 60,000 and one lakh rupees.

"Solar rooftop is becoming increasingly popular in Delhi, particularly in the domestic (residential) sector. The subsidy plan is to blame for this increase. However, subsidies alone are insufficient because there is a significant space constraint in residential areas in terms of roof size, which is slowing adoption "According to Dwijadas Basak, Chief-Commercial, Consumer Experience, and Social Impact Group at Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, areas such as Rohini, Pitampura, and Moti Nagar are gradually seeing increased demand for solar installation.

Several obstacles

According to Neeraj Kuldeep, program lead at the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), fulfilling states' ambitious solar power targets will necessitate a strong strategic push.

"In order to increase the uptake of rooftop solar systems, the Delhi government should review the home electricity subsidy." Second, authorities should promote creative business models, such as the Solar Partners model, which uses extra roof space for solar power installations and provides clean electricity to consumers under virtual net-metering standards," Manjeet Kumar said.

He also mentioned that a green tariff, which is a utility-approved power cost that permits users to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, might provide a much-needed push to rooftop solar installations.

"Finally, the government may look at other developing potential, such as floating solar panels and lake revitalization," he said.


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